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Peer: A British nobleman, i.e. a duke, marquis, earl, viscount or baron.
Peri: A fairy (from Persian mythology).
Arcadian: Arcadia, a mountainous area of small valleys and villages in central Peloponnesus, was regarded by the ancient Greeks as the ideal region of rural contentment and pastoral simplicity.
On her head: A familiar Victorian catch-phrase meaning ‘with ease.’ We still use it in the form “You can do it standing on your head.”
Ward in Chancery: A minor under the guardianship of the Court of Chancery. The Court of Chancery is now one of the divisions of the High Court and has traditionally dealt with cases involving equity and, as here, the wardship of minors.
Lord Chancellor: The highest judicial functionary in England, ranking above all peers but not above Royal princes or the Archbishop of Canterbury. He formerly acted as the Speaker in the House of Lords.
Bands: Strips of white cloth worn at the neck by clergymen and lawyers, but not, normally, by ushers.
Bombazine: The black material of which legal gowns are made.
I've a borough or two at my disposal: These boroughs are “pocket-boroughs” where wealthy and influential individuals would have no difficulty in getting their nominated candidate elected.
Radicals: The more left-wing members of the Liberal Party who stressed the need for economic and social reform.
Wrong lobby: A vote is taken in the House of Commons by the Members of Parliament filing through either the ‘Aye’ or the ‘No’ lobby.
Contempt of Court: Disobedience of the rules, orders or process of a court, or gross disrespect to the judge or officials. The court has power to punish any such offences.
Arrest of Judgment: An unsuccessful defendant might move that the judgment for the plaintiff be arrested or withheld, in spite of a verdict having been given, on the ground that there had been some substantial miscarriage of justice.
Woolsack: The seat of the Lord Chancellor in the House of Lords, being a large square couch stuffed with wool, without back or arms, and covered with red cloth.
Bar of this House: A barrier to be found in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords marking a space near the door where non members may be admitted for business purposes.
Tabors: Small drums.
Belgrave Square: One of the grandest squares in London.
Seven Dials: In the nineteenth century, a slum area notorious for squalor and crime.
Blue blood: Aristocratic descent.
"Not evidence" : A reference to the rules of evidence of the English Law which do not allow certain evidence likely to be of an unsatisfactory character, e.g. hearsay evidence, to be given.
Affidavit: A statement in writing and sworn on oath sworn, which may be used as evidence in court.
Throw dust in a juryman's eyes: Mislead the jury.
Exchequer, Queen's Bench, Court of Pleas and Divorce: The first three of these courts were very old. The Queen's (or King’s) Bench was so called because the monarch himself originally sat in this Court which heard cases in which the Crown was a party.
Perjure: Swear falsely.
When tempests wreck thy bark: A bark is a small ship or boat. The phrase therefore means 'when you are in trouble'.
St. James’s Park: The oldest of the six Royal Parks in central London.
Dolce far niente: (Italian.) The luxury of complete idleness.
Festina lente: Literally “Hasten slowly”. Do not jump to conclusions.
Moistened my clay: Here clay refers to the flesh, so to moisten one’s clay means to drink.
Pipe our eye: Weep, cry.
Swain: An archaic word for a shepherd or rustic fellow.
Countess: The wife of an earl.
Taradiddle, Tol-lol-lay: A taradiddle is a lie or fib, Tol-lol is a slang word for “rather good”.
Repente: A Latin or Italian word meaning suddenly or unexpectedly.
Contradicente: From the Latin for contradicting.
Badinage: Light, trifling talk, banter.
Vagary: Whimsical or extravagant notion.
Quandary: A state of perplexity,, difficult situation, dilemma.
Andersen's Library: A reference to Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875), the Danish writer of fairy tales.
Whig, Tory: Liberal and Conservative respectively.
Grouse and salmon season: The periods of the year when grouse may be shot and salmon caught. These are regulated by Acts of Parliament.
Friday nights: Both Houses of Parliament sit and rise early on a Friday. They do not sit Saturdays.
Marriage with deceased wife's sister: A bill to this effect was brought in almost every year and passed by the House of Commons and thrown out by the House of Lords. It was the stock subject for difference of opinion. But the Act was finally passed in 1907.
Competitive Examination: Competitive Examinations were the main means of recruitment into the Civil Service.
Canaille: Rabble or riff-raff.
Plebs: Originally those Roman citizens who were not patricians, but has come to refer to those in the lower social orders.
Oí πολλοί: (hoi polloi) Greek for plebs.
Sentry-go: Sentry duty.
Divide: Vote by going into one of the two lobbies.
Cerebellum: The back part of the brain.
Pretty kettle of fish: An awkward state of affairs, mess or muddle.
Parliamentary Pickford: Pickford's was (and is) a haulage firm whose slogan was "we carry everything".
Bays: Laurel wreaths, given to victorious heroes.
British Representative Peer: Until 1922, when the Irish Free State was established, twenty-eight Irish peers were elected for life to sit in the House of Lords as representatives of the entire Irish peerage. Sixteen Scottish peers were similarly elected by their fellow peers until 1963.
Ovidius Naso: The amatory Roman poet, Ovid, (43 B.C. - 17 A.D.).
Shaw, Captain: Eyre Massey Shaw (1830 - 1908) was Chief Officer of the London Fire Brigade until 1891. On the first night of Iolanthe, he was in the stalls, as Alice Barnett, as Queen of the Fairies, addressed her song to him.
Ticking: Closely woven cloth used to contain feathers, etc., in a mattress or pillow.
Bathing machine: Changing-room on wheels which could be towed into the sea so one could get into the water without being seen in one’s bathing costume.
Sloane Square and South Kensington Stations: Adjacent stations on the District, Circle and Piccadilly lines of the London Underground.
Four-wheeler: A four wheeled hackney carriage (cab).
Ties pay the dealer: In card games such as pontoon or blackjack, a player loses if he has a lower or equal hand to (i.e. ties with) the dealer.
Gold clocks: Gold figured work on the side of the hosiery.
Banburys: Banbury cakes which have a filling of currants and spice encased in pastry, named after the Oxfordshire town.
Rothschild and Baring: Two major banking houses in Victorian Britain.
Ancient saw: Old saying or maxim.
Maravedi: A small Spanish copper coin.
Does your mother know: “ Does your Mother know you're out?” A jeering remark, usually addressed in those days to a presumptuous youth or to a silly simpleton.
Equity draughtsman: A self-conferred title frequently assumed by Junior Counsel practising in the Chancery Division.
Two strings go to every bow... grief 'twill bring if you've two beaux to every string: A pun on the phrase 'to have two strings to your bow,' meaning to be prepared for emergencies (when you resort to your second string), and the French word 'beaux,' meaning admirers, whom one may have 'on a string'.
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